While the wine regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma may get most of the attention in the state of California, the Central Coast is becoming increasingly known for its up-and-coming wineries and high-quality winemaking – especially when it comes to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Currently, Chardonnay accounts for 50 percent of all grapes planted in this wine-producing region.
The Central Coast extends south and west of San Francisco Bay, all the way down to Santa Barbara County near Los Angeles. This coastal region actually consists of more than 40 American Viticultural Areas, including Santa Rita Hills (featured in the famous wine movie “Sideways”), Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, San Lucas, Pasa Robles, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley and Livermore Valley.
Since these AVAs largely consists of valleys that open up to the Pacific Ocean, they are especially suitable for cooler climate grape varietals. In the morning, it’s not unusual to see a cold morning cloud layer roll through these valleys, keeping down the temperature and protecting the grapes from the sun.
The Pasa Robles AVA has become one of the best-known of the Central Coast AVAs, largely on the reputation of its Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel wines. These varietals are able to flourish due to the warmer, more inland location of the AVA. In contrast, other AVAs that are cool and coastal – such as Santa Cruz Mountains (located west of Silicon Valley) – is better for cooler climate varietals, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Since the Central Coast extends between two major cities – San Francisco and Los Angeles – it’s easy to see how wine lovers in California looking for something new and different have embraced Central Coast wines.